Today is February 14th. St Valentine’s Day. During the time of the Roman Empire, a priest named Valentine performed secret Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He cut hearts from parchment, and gave them to soldiers, as a way to remember their vows and God’s love. Valentine was executed for his actions on February 14th, years later he was sainted, and over the centuries the link between this date and expressions of love has become an established tradition.
Today’s Bible passage is also about love, although on first reading this isn’t quite as obvious as a bunch of red roses and a box of chocolates. Luke Chapter 15 v1-10 contains two well known parables. Firstly, Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep; and then the parable of the lost coin. In Verses 8 and 9 he says,
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”
I wonder if you have ever lost anything important?
On my 21st birthday, Alan gave me a pair of earrings. They were a perfect match for my engagement ring. We were students at the time, so whilst the ruby and diamonds in my ring were real, the earrings were cubic zirconia with a fake ruby……but that wasn’t important, I loved them. I wore them every day. Fast forward 7 years, and we were on holiday in Devon. We had spent the day on the beach with our two little boys, and were just climbing back into the car, when I realised one of my earrings had fallen out. I checked my clothes, the footwell of the car, the picnic bag, the boy’s car seats…..but the earring was nowhere to be found. It was lost, amongst the sand and the rock pools, never to be seen again. I was so upset. I turned to Alan and, in an attempt to console myself, said, “At least they weren’t real.” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Actually, they were.” I was horrified. I would have treated them differently if I had known their true value.
Today a silver coin is a 5p, 10p or 50p. It is not that valuable so, if we lose one, we do not immediately turn our whole house upside down, but instead wait a few months and then find it down the side of the sofa! Context is important here.
It is most likely that this coin was part of the woman’s savings or her dowry. If it was the latter, then the emotional value of the coin would be huge. It is possible that she had worn it on a veil or a necklace for her whole life. No other coin would ever be able to replace it. If it was a dowry coin, then this would be a disastrous personal loss – not only because it was a connection to her family and the symbol of her marriage, but the coins were also a woman’s means of financial survival if her husband died. If the coin was part of her family savings, then this was equally catastrophic. The lost sheep in verses 3-7 was 1 in 100, just 1%. One coin in ten is a 10% loss. Whether the coin was of sentimental or financial importance, Jesus is seeking to emphasise the significance of this loss.
The second thing to note in these verses is the determined and urgent nature of the woman’s search. Rather than waiting for the coin to turn up, she begins the search straight away. She lights a lamp. This in itself is extravagant. Oil was an expensive commodity, normally only used in the evenings. The implication here is that it has not yet gone dark, as the lamp is not already lit. But such is the value of this coin to her, that she is prepared to expend considerable energy and valuable resources to find it – no matter what the cost.
So, what does this parable have to do with love?
Firstly, it seeks to show us the true extent, the true depth, the enormity, the indescribable, unfathomable love that God has for us. Such is God’s love for us, that he just cannot countenance us being lost to him. We are beyond value to him. We are irreplaceable to him. And so he searches frantically for us; because he loves us, and losing us is a disaster.
Just as the woman gave up precious oil, as well as time and effort, to search for the lost coin, so God sent his precious son Jesus, to give up his whole life, just so that we might be found again. Because God loves us, and longs to be reunited in a relationship with us, he was prepared to pay any cost.
And there is also a challenge about love in these verses.
Do we love people in this way? The same way as God does?
If I had known the true value of those earrings, I would have treated them differently.
If we really understood the way that God loves people, the way that he longs to be in relationship with them, how precious and valuable they are to him, then how might this alter the way we speak, the way we act, the way that we show love to others?
Losing my earring was sad, but it wasn’t life altering.
Sending a Valentines card, or receiving one, is really nice…..but it is not going to totally transform our lives.
However, finding the 1 silver coin was transformational for the woman.
Living in such a way that shows people their true value and worth; seeing others as God sees them, speaking, acting and showing love to those around us in the way that Jesus did, would be life altering not just for 1 in 100, or 1 in 10, but transformational for the whole of society.
Let’s choose to love like that today.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are the God of love, and that your love for us is beyond measure. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, so that we can live differently and through showing love to others, help them to find you. Amen.
READING: Luke 15:1-10
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’
Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.
‘Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’